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Commentary: Revive the 'V' Visa

By Lee Cullum, KERA 90.1 commentator

Dallas, TX –

In the land of family values, it's a strange situation. Naveen, from Hyderabad, India, is an engineer at Texas Instruments, where his wife, Arunasree, also works. They live in Plano with their young daughter, Tricia. However, the three of them are in the country under quite different circumstances. They asked that their last names not be used because they fear trouble from Citizen and Immigration Services.

Naveen is a legal permanent resident who's filed for citizenship, something Tricia already has because she was born here. But Arunasree is in the country on a work visa, which means that staying home with her daughter is out of the question. If she did, she would lose her work visa and have to leave, something she'll have to do in any case when the visa expires in two years, unless she can wangle a year-by-year extension, but that's complicated to do. And what about the little girl? As a citizen she could stay, of course, but chances are if her mother returns to India, she'll go, too.

Then they'll begin a long wait of more than five years before Arunasree can come back to the U.S. on an immigrant visa. She cannot come for a visit. No visa would be issued for that. Nor can Naveen spend more than six months out of the country seeing her and Tricia in India and perhaps working for his company there. That would mean time lost in his wait for citizenship. He could even lose his green card.

Siva, also from Hyderabad, is a consultant with Solution Beacon, which helps corporations implement Oracle software. He met his wife, Komalaa, in Malaysia where she was a flight attendant for Singapore Airlines. She came to the U.S. on a student visa, enrolled at North Texas University to study interior design, and she married Siva. Soon they will move from Valley Ranch in Irving to Highland Village near Flower Mound to make room for a baby this month.

Her visa ends in 2008 or sooner, with her studies, and so will her stay in America, at least for five years, maybe more. She too will take her baby, a U.S. citizen, and leave behind an anguished husband, cut off from his family.

This is the plight of legal permanent residents in the United States. Oddly, temporary guest workers can bring their spouses and children to the U.S. right away. So can students. Citizens who marry someone from another nation can get that person into the country within three months. It is only green card holders who must wait five years. The amazing thing is that if they marry a day before their green cards come through, the new spouse is allowed into America immediately. But a day after? No. The five-year rule begins, remorselessly. Does this make sense?

Naveen, Siva, and about 200 others across the country have banded together to form UniteFamilies.org. Their goal is to press Congress to a pass a bill reviving the "V" visa to solve this problem. This is a special visitor's visa that allows spouses to enter the country and stay while they endure the long wait for a green card.

Senator John Cornyn, who chairs a Senate Subcommittee on Immigrations, should take the lead in bringing back the "V" visa, which was allowed to lapse a few years ago. Otherwise, TI, Solution Beacon and countless other high-tech companies may find themselves needing talent which will go elsewhere as word spreads of our unfriendly policy toward families. The "V" visa is in everybody's best interest, including those of the country.

Lee Cullum is a contributor to the Dallas Morning News and to KERA. If you have opinions or rebuttals about this commentary, call (214) 740-9338 or email us.